'They Never Gave Up:' Shawnee Girls Swim Team Defies Odds, Wins State

For this Shawnee team, giving up was never an option. News 9's Cameron Joiner shares a story of resilience in today's Something Good.

Tuesday, February 20th 2024, 10:14 pm

By: News 9, Cameron Joiner


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In the Shawnee High School gym, an annual lap-a-thon fundraiser was held Tuesday afternoon.

"Good job girls," Coach Valarie Colburn calls to her athletes. "Get a nice steady pace."

While they’re running laps on an indoor track, this isn’t the track team.

Colburn is the girls' swim coach, and she usually counts laps for the lap-a-thon in the team’s practice pool. She believes practice makes perfect, but what if there's nowhere to practice?

"This is where the Shawnee swim team has practiced since the year 2000," Colburn said. “I mean up until April 19th, the night the tornado hit."

The tornado destroyed the Shawnee YMCA, where the team held their practices and meets.

“My heart, it just sank," Colburn said.

The 2024 season was looking grim for the two-time state champs, but they had to push forward.

"We knew we were dealt a bad hand,” she said. “This is a reason we're going to have to work harder."

They were able to find a new practice space, but it was an even bigger challenge.

“We ended up in this small pool," Colburn explained. "It was 10 by 10 with no lane lines, no backstroke flags, no blocks, no anything."

The coach had to rethink every warmup and workout.

"We had to use bungee cords to hook onto the kids to hold them in place because we didn't have, you know, a 25-yard pool," Colburn said.

And finally, the state title meet came around again last Friday, and the Shawnee girls team became champions again for the third straight year.

"They knew they had a disadvantage, and they were not going to give up," Colburn said.

The final race of the meet pushed them over the edge.

"When we won that 400 free relay, I couldn't be more proud of them," she said. “They had a goal and they accomplished it."

The journey to a fourth championship started at Tuesday’s fundraiser.

"Guys we really need to collect," Colburn told the athletes. "We lost a lot of equipment in the tornado."

For this team, giving up was never an option. Coach Colburn said they’re anxious to get back in their home pool for this upcoming season, and construction should be done this summer.

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